The years rest lightly on Matt Egger, 87-year-old
Ravalli County resident since 1900. In good health, he enjoys everyday of
living, busying himself by keeping his house and yard on Lyndale Avenue neat
and clean. With remarkable memory, he recalls the events of his long life
which began in Switzerland, December 6, 1870. He became an orphan at an early
age going to work a short time later on a farm. In 1891, he came to America
settling at Monticello, Iowa where he worked several years on a farm before
coming to Montana.
His first work in the Bitter Root valley was in
a logging camp west of Grantsdale. The next year, he took a job as a milker
on the dairy farm of Marcus Daly, working there in various capacities for
47 years until 1948 when he retired. During that time, he was gardener, growing
quality fruits and vegetables for the table of Mrs. Marcus Daly who entertained
lavishly during those days of gentility. Friends and relatives of the Dalys
from all over the country came to enjoy the hospitality at the estate which
was said to be the most beautiful in Montana.
Mrs. Daly insisted that fresh vegetables be available
all during the summer. To accomplish this, seeds were planted at intervals,
producing such out of season vegetables such as peas, radishes, lettuce, and
corn until fall frosts. A large greenhouse was maintained to provide the
flowers and vegetables during the other times of the years.
"Mrs. Daly was a remarkable woman," Matt Egger
said. "She had formen and supervisors, but often she would take complete
charge of the job of running the servants in the mansion and the workers
on the estate. That is why the place was such a beautiful one."
Matt Eggers recalls that in 1900 Hamilton was a
rough town dominated by a backwash of miners, smelter workers, and lumber
jacks. It was in that year that a couple of lumber jacks got into a fight
and knocked over a kerosene lamp in the old Hamilton Hotel which occupied
the same site as the present brick structure. Built of lumber, the building
burned like a pile of tinder and with it took much of Hamilton's main street.
Commenting on the lack of an adequate water system or fire protection, a wit
remarked, "All you could save was the lot."
Heavy winter snows and spring rains caused a serious
flood in the Bitter Root in 1906, Eggers recalls. The swollen streams overflowed
and their banks washing out bridges and sections of the railroad grade. The
heavy rains poured from low hanging clouds which darkened the skies of the
valley for days. The sustained moisture threatened the crops, but ideal weather
later in the summer brought about bumper yields of hay and grain.
Marcus Daly, the great horseman, built an excellent
race track and grandstand on the site of the present ball park in Hamilton.
the reserved seat section was fitted with plush upholstered opera chairs,
Eggers recalls. When the structure was torn down, these were used in one of
the Hamilton theaters.
Mr. Egger recalls with amusement, the appearance
of Haley's comet in 1910. The entire sky was illuminated with a strange fluorescent
hue. People prepared for the end of the world, fearful that the awesome thing
would strike the earth bringing carnage and destruction.
Mr. Egger is in remarkable health. Still interested
in gardening, he finds time to help Mr. and Mrs. E.O. Marx, his neighbors
grow quality vegetables. Interested in mechanics, he keeps his 17 year-old
car in first class running condition. Hale, and hardy, Mr. Eggar chops his
own wood, cooks his meals and keeps his house neat and clean. His background
as a professional gardener is evident by the lush and neat appearance of his
lawn which he cuts with a hand mower. No unsightly weeds are allowed to grow
to mar the yards and buildings.
As a hobby, Mr. Egger enjoys classical music which
he plays from a good selection of records. Included are the works of Beethoven,
Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, and other great names in the musical history. Without
wearing glasses, he is able to read the fine print on the labels of the records.
Possessing a happy disposition and a ready smile,
Mr. Eggers lives each day according to the principles laid down in "the good
book." Busying himself with tasks within his physical limitations, he gives
proof that old age need not be feared.
The Western News, July 25, 1957